Sustainability is more than just choosing eco-friendly paper packaging. While the use of paper packaging is one of the most popular ways to contribute to sustainability efforts, there are still more ways on how cafe owners can help.
What are sustainability efforts?
In the food and beverage industry, sustainability efforts include reducing waste, water, and energy consumption, among others. It also includes choosing sustainable farming via supply and food sourcing, reducing carbon footprint via supporting local, quality ingredients), food wastage, packaging, recycling, and water and energy conservation.
With such a project–that we want to turn into a habit–we take our part in minimizing the impacts of our endeavors on the planet. It’s not just a trend, but a responsibility even for business owners.
How can I make my cafe sustainable?
Here are some kickstarter ideas you can consider:
- Furniture. If you’re still starting out and in the process of procuring items for your cafe, you might want to prefer buying refurbished furniture like old crates and chairs. You’ll be surprised at how aesthetically pleasing and added cafe vibe it is once you mix and match it well with the interior of your cafe. You can also opt to invest in eco-friendly made furniture and lights!
- Equipment. You can pick out eco-friendly equipment or appliance alternatives. Further, research inverter appliances and how they can conserve energy and usage of eco-friendly parts!
- Supplier. Do your suppliers use a lot of plastics in delivering goods to you? Ask them if they can deliver via crates or clean and recycled carton boxes. Make sure they’re always clean though! Opt to buy from locals, if you can. Close proximity means less travel time, and it can also preserve freshness and even reduce carbon footprint! Don’t expect to do it overnight if you can’t. Try a little change every step to make sure you still produce the same quality and taste you provided before.
- Less paper. If you print the menu every time, that might be unnecessary. You can choose to use chalkboards for your menu. And in some instances, you can even ask your customer if you can email the receipt if they’ll agree too. Make sure to have an online system for that!
- Packaging choices. Select less single-use plastics for packaging, and more biodegradable ones. For straws, make it optional. Even for paper straws and other utensils. Encourage customers to bring reusable ones, even. You can give discounts when they do. (Think of the discount as the price for the packaging you would have provided. It’s a win-win-win!) If not, offer to use in-house mugs, mason jars, and glasses for dine-in customers. Some LGUs have ordinances about single-use plastics, so make sure to read and follow it mindfully.
- Prepping food. Not just packaging, but it’s linked to preparing food too. Use less cling wraps/films if you can. And when buying supplies, check for environment-friendly choices like parchment papers or baking papers.
- Water and energy conservation. If you have restrooms in your cafe, use signs that your customers will read (“Conserve water” Or “please turn off lights as you go out”). It’s a simple reminder but may go a long way. This applies to your staff too.
- Segregate waste. Use biodegradable bin bags. Have a bussing station where customers can separate their food wastes, utensils, and plates themselves. Not only will it reduce staff handling used utensils and napkins, but you allow customers to do a small part in that way. Make it clear to put paper in paper waste, unavoidable plastic to plastic waste, etc). Additionally, you can start creating a compost bin for food waste. Plus, encourage reducing food waste– both for customers and staff! It’s important for your staff to check inventory regularly. Moreover, as a proactive solution, offer food in different portion sizes so customers can order whatever they can eat without leaving so much food on the table.
- E-waste disposal. When there’s a need to dispose of any e-waste, such as but not limited to digital menus or tablets for taking orders, contact your LGU’s solid waste management team. You don’t just remove the possibility of local garbage collectors handling e-waste unsafely, but you can also responsibly turn it over to officials who can properly dispose of it, safely
- Share it. Don’t look at untouched food in the display counter as waste. If you think it won’t be sold the next day you’re open (for example, you’re open on a Sunday but won’t reopen until Tuesday), try distributing the excess food to the homeless near your cafe. It’s a simple thing, but a nice gesture to do.
- Train. Convince your staff by example! Maybe not overnight, but step by step. You can even invite an environmental group and immerse yourselves. In this way, understanding comes before being afraid of consequences. For team building activities, you and your staff can even engage in tree-planting activities some time too!
- Share. It’s not bragging if you share it on social media. If your motivation is to influence and promote efforts, then you’re on the right track. Add statistics and visuals too!
- Share more. Offer free used coffee grinds. Some customers might have gardens in their own homes, they can use it as fertilizers!
Benefits of a sustainable cafe
With sustainability efforts, you can influence people’s decisions on where they prefer to eat. Aside from the delicious coffee and delectable pastries, you can inspire their preferences with restaurants and cafe’s attempts to take their part. In this way, you create an opportunity for them to help make a difference and feel the ability to help the planet in a small way every day.
And it doesn’t just end in being an inspirational entrepreneur! Your business may benefit too.
When you reach more people through sustainability efforts, you can increase profit along the way too. You can even tie it up with your loyalty program. For example, they can get an additional stamp when they bring reusables instead of single-use plastic. You don’t just encourage reducing waste, but you can also market your cafe’s loyalty program!
Your cafe can even build awareness, if not a reminder, to inspire customers to build a habit, like, “Hey, if I could bring my tumbler every day, I don’t just get discounts. But I also help reduce disposable wastes.”